New Study: Attending Live Sport Improves Well-Being

Celebration Sports Stadium

A large-scale study by Anglia Ruskin University found that attending live sporting events improves subjective well-being and reduces loneliness, with the uplift in feelings of life being worthwhile similar to the effect of gaining employment. The researchers suggest watching live sports could be a valuable public health tool for improving well-being, emphasizing the benefits of social interaction, group identity, and belonging provided by these events.

The research is the first to demonstrate significant benefits across a large adult population.

New scientific findings reveal that attending live sports events enhances well-being and alleviates feelings of isolation. As the first extensive study of its kind, this research, published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, explores the advantages of participating in any form of live sports gathering.

The study, carried out by academics from Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Psychology and Sport Science, used data from 7,209 adults, aged 16-85, living in England who participated in the Taking Part Survey, which was commissioned by the British Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.

It found that attending live sporting events results in higher scores of two major measurements of subjective well-being – life satisfaction and a sense of “life being worthwhile” – as well as lower levels of loneliness.

These results are significant as previous studies have shown that higher life satisfaction scores are associated with fewer life-limiting conditions and better physical health, successful aging, and lower mortality rates.

The new study also found that attending live sporting events leads to an increase in people’s sense that “life is worthwhile”, and the size of this increase is comparable to that of gaining employment.

Many initiatives currently promote the benefits of physical participation in sports, but the researchers believe that watching live sporting events can also offer an accessible and effective public health tool for improving well-being and reducing loneliness.

Lead author Dr. Helen Keyes, Head of the School of Psychology and Sport Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “Previous research has focused on specific sports or small population samples, such as college students in the United States. Ours is the first study to look at the benefits of attending any sporting event across an adult population, and therefore our findings could be useful for shaping future public health strategies, such as offering reduced ticket prices for certain groups.

“The live events covered by the survey ranged from free amateur events, such as watching village sports teams, right through to Premier League football matches. Therefore, further research needs to be carried out to see if these benefits are more pronounced for elite-level sports, or are more closely linked to supporting a specific team.

“However, we do know that watching live sport of all types provides many opportunities for social interaction and this helps to forge group identity and belonging, which in turn mitigates loneliness and boosts levels of wellbeing.”

Reference: “Attending live sporting events predicts subjective wellbeing and reduces loneliness” by Helen Keyes, Sarah Gradidge, Nicola Gibson, Annelie Harvey, Shyanne Roeloffs, Magdalena Zawisza and Suzanna Forwood, 4 January 2023, Frontiers in Public Health.
DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.989706

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